The Associated Press (via ABCNews.com) reports that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today outlined the "Smart from the Start" initiative designed to streamline the permitting process for offshore wind projects on the Atlantic continental shelf. Speaking in Baltimore, he and other federal officials pledged to work with state leaders to select promising sites along the Atlantic seaboard for wind energy production. According to a DOI fact sheet describing the program, the “Smart from the Start” initiative will identify "Wind Energy Areas" offshore Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts within sixty days of this announcement. Secretary Salazar also noted that offshore wind leases could be approved under this new arrangement as early as late-2011 or early-2012.

As part of the initiative, the U.S. Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) has proposed regulatory changes that would remove the requirement for a second Request for Interest (RFI) seeking qualified parties interested in developing offshore wind projects. BOEM has concluded that the second RFI is “redundant” and can slow the permitting process by between 6-12 months.